Previously, Valdis slid down the side of the volcano when the rock shelf at the entrance to the Path of the Dead gave way. She slid down beyond recovery, even for someone as agile as Calendel or Kestrel. However, she managed to halt her descent on the lip of a chasm. Isolated, most of her equipment and weaponry (including the Blade of Tolfree) lost in the chasm, she considered her options.
Valdis’s shock lizard Ohmsa blasted, elsewhere on the slope, attracting the attention of a circling pterodactyl. Fortunately the flying dinosaur was Gansel, the pterawizard. He spotted Valdis and joined her on the ledge, casting a spell to render her levitating and weightless, then he towed her up to the entry to the Paths of the Dead. While he brewed tea, she attempted entry, but the dolmen entry was the exact image in her mind from the scary stories and folk art of the entry to the land of the dead from her people, and she sensed those she had slain waiting on the other side, ready for her. Struggling with her nerves, she joined the wizard for tea, and he asked her to watch over him as he slept.
Gathering the Party
The next morning, Annonciade, Soren (and Kurzol), Calendel, and Kestrel woke refreshed after the priests stood guard over them through the night. They traveled through the Paths of the Dead, leaving the Sacred Valley and the Zadabad Treasure Vault behind. They passed the Obsidian Guardian without incident, and startled Valdis as they exited the Paths. She was relieved to see them, but surprised to see that Gansel had moved along; at any rate, he was no longer there.
They returned to the dangerous gap where they had previously used rope to cross, and Kestrel light-footed across and restored the bridge. Kurzol struggled with his nerve through all this, getting by on promises of bonuses and rewards for service above and beyond what you’d expect of a henchman.
They followed the path back down to the shrine, and took the shrine gate through to the other shrine. Again, Ohmsa grew sleepy, and again, Zhadum vented excess cosmic energy into him. This time Ohmsa formed a bit of a crush on the hypnotoad, starting an irritating habit of foraging for tasty snacks and bits of brightly colored material as gifts for the disinterested creature. There were signs that the site had been casually clawed and marked by a giant cat-like creature, and Calendel decided on the spot that someday he would ride one. Calendel was also reunited with his very happy (and stuffed full of bugs) bat.
As the adventurers crossed the grassy stretch by the edge of the jungle, they were accosted by hunched little crow people in cloaks and hoods, some with goggles or armor bits. The crowbros considered attacking them, but were talked out of it. Calendel’s bat was hanging behind him, and it stretched, so he appeared to have upside-down leathern wings; that was exciting to the squat little squabblers. They received gifts of coins; they didn’t have a way to spend them, but liked that they were shiny. Taken with the adventurers, they agreed to escort them back to where the sailors were turning them from “alive” to “delicious” (which makes sense if you eat carrion. One of them got a hank of Calendel’s hair to chew, and that was thrilling; he took a great interest in the elf.
Crew of the Wave Wolf
It was after dark when they emerged from the jungle to the work site where the pirates were toiling around the clock to knock down trees, turn them into lumber, replenish the ship supplies, and prepare to leave. Captain Brun seemed happy enough to see them; he was genuinely surprised when Calendel returned his telescope. His previous experience with elves had not prepared him for one keeping a promise.
Annonciade and Kurzol helped out with the ship repairs and the adventurers and crew got some vigilant rest in before heading out to the Wave Wolf the next morning. They decided to visit one of the Stonegods, as per the original plan.
They arrived in the afternoon, choosing one of the islands with a stone head fifteen feet or so tall to investigate. Annonciade sketched the giant stone head, Kestrel mounted it to gaze out from its high vantage point, Calendel studied its surface, and Soren meditated in its presence trying to identify the strange flavor of energy it exuded. As Valdis was looking at its massive face, it grated and creaked slightly, moving.
Startled, the adventures prepared for anything. The shiny obsidian eyes peeked out from under the rough stone lids, and the Stonegod spoke slowly. He was roused by the presence of “sparks” and he was vaguely surprised that he was not surrounded by a village or town, as was usually the case when he woke. The clever adventurers realized that “sparks” were gems; the Stonegod wanted to eat them for energy.
His name was Solon, and he had been trapped for a long time; something about a sea witch curse. He offered them a secret. Valdis fed him first, and Kestrel decided to gamble and offered up a mass of gems from their cache. Solon invited Kestrel to put his head on the Stonegod’s mouth, and he planted a Secret in his essence–an essence that deepened his ability to see signs, so that he would also be an oracle of sorts. This bolstered Kestrel’s daring, and embedded weird knowledge. Valdis was given a lesser secret; she experienced a prophecy in the Stonegod’s mouth, that the underwater lightning would lead her to what is not a tomb.
Their bargain complete, Solon shifted; apparently the stone head was connected to a lanky body over 70 foot long, and the Stonegod climbed up out of the imprisoning earth and waded out to sea.
The Stonegod Crater
The crater left behind was intriguing with otherdimensional shadows, and apparently some crystal material had built up around the quiescent Stonegod. Annonciade realized that the Stonegod was a Child of Mekk, a true ancient. Mekk was one of the primordial gods, who animated things by infusing them with energy. When Mekk was destroyed, the only way to bring life was through the power of Kamu, the god of blending, who would mix energy from things to create new things. The Children of Mekk began as life breathed into stone.
Therefore the crystals would be valuable to those who built constructs or other mekkanical devices that were powered by fiat rather than blending. Gansel joined them, drawn by the spectacle of the Stonegod wading away from the island. Kestrel climbed down, loading up with crystals, and Gansel empowered him to levitate out of the hole with the full load.
Fully within the shadow of the pit, Calendel had a moment; the world turned grayscale, he was alone, and a shifty white-haired fop stepped out of his shadow. He seemed to be speaking to a version of the shadow god Silamos, who was delighted with his work. Calendel’s shadow was sacrificed to Silamos, and he became a Silamosan Dancer. He gained the shadow borrowed from Annalise, the Oracle of Silamos.
Securing Passage to the Isle of Sarban
Their business with Kalmatta Isle concluded, they decided to investigate the treasure vault where Tolfree was freed from his undying prison. They would undertake the two week voyage to the Isle of Sarban.
To purchase the Wave Wolf’s services, they offered Captain Brun (and Gansel) a mass of the Stonegod crystal. The captain agreed. (Each adventurer kept a small piece as a souvenir.) They weighed anchor and departed, headed for the other end of the Gemlit Sea.
The Ice Cage
Annonciade shared her research from pirate lore and the Epochal History. They were headed for the Isle of Sarban, in the Crag’s List Isles. There they would arrive in Port Dive Bar, a sort of neutral and seedy place famous for pearl diving locals. Their next destination on the island could be Sandleprint, a port city where the Frost Court ruled. The Winter Duke was the head of the Frost Court, supported by the Pale Vizier, a cleric of the Order of Plenty in service of Saint Garisand, Patron of the Harvest. The Frost Court stood in opposition to the Blood Kings, necromancer pirates with massive barges full of Strongback corpse rowers and in command of a dark force known as Writhers.
The Pale Vizier would be a Funereal, the undead slayer clerics of the Order of Plenty. The Order was based out of a fortress built into the cliffs on the other side of the mountains, overlooking the sea but without a port. The Fallows Overlook was constructed with a secret task, according to the Epochal History; it was to protect the Ice Cage, deep in the mountains. Annonciade concluded that the Ice Cage matched the description of Tolfree’s prison. This lore and background was patchwork, and much of it was generations old, but the materials in Tolfree’s sketches and books matched with this location, and if it was indeed another vault (like the Lightning Vault and the Treasure Vault of Zadabad) they would discover secrets within that twined with the foundation of the world.
Voyage Into Fog
As the ship sailed day after day, Kestrel had a few troubling dreams about fog, and a terrible danger within. He was patiently assured that with the region and the weather, fog was not a thing; yes, they were sailing towards a temperate clime, but conditions were such that they need not worry about fog.
They found themselves in a fog bank. Consulting the Epochal History, Annonciade was concerned that it might be friction between one dimension rubbing against this one, and they should definitely sail clear.
Valdis felt oddly hypnotized by the sightless and substanceless mass, and found herself remembering a story from her youth about a lighthouse, and something singing in the lighthouse; ghosts, perhaps. Those who answered, who drank in the fog and song, were destroyed.
The first strains of singing drifted across the still waters.